“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Waste Land: I. The Burial of the Dead”

Abandoned Mansion, Beirut by craigfinlay fcc
Abandoned Mansion, Beirut by craigfinlay (FCC)

“APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Waste Land: I. The Burial of the Dead”

Sunday evening, the 19th of April. Cool.

Seems I spend more time lately apologizing for not being here than actually being here. I have posts sitting in my draft box for the first week of April, never going from draft to publish. Too much involved, too much thinking necessary to finesse and push all of the right buttons.

My health? Not the best. In addition to the usual pain, I may or may not have a torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder, the pain of which has prevented much in the way of my discourse on this computer. Then there were the nights of chills and sweat, awaking freezing in soaking wet clothes. Changing my shirt four times in as many hours.

It has not been pretty.

Not that I have not thought of all of the words I could say here, all of the words backlogged and stuck in my craw, all of the words that have been unable to move past this . . . this what? This fugue state? This state of being completely at odds with the world, with everyone, with myself? What does one call being completely lost in so many ways, but just too tired to even begin to mull over the ways in which to extract the self from a general sense of malaise?

So what do I have for you today, my far away companions in the ether? Not much, other than a feeble attempt to raise my head for a few moments and let you know that I am still here.

“Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Waste Land: I. The Burial of the Dead”

So here, as I am, I offer you this compendium, three words that at times can mean everything, nothing and something . . .

  • It won’t hurt
  • I’m so sorry
  • You should stop
  • What is happening
  • Don’t worry so
  • Calm down now
  • Take a breath
  • It wasn’t me
  • I didn’t know
  • I don’t know
  • I couldn’t know
  • I should’ve known
  • Please tell me
  • Don’t tell lies
  • I’m really sorry
  • No you’re not
  • I don’t remember
  • It doesn’t matter
  • It all matters
  • It’s all good
  • Nothing is good
  • You should go
  • Let go now
  • Is he okay
  • Is she okay
  • Are they okay
  • Are we okay
  • Nothing is okay
  • Speak to me
  • Talk to me
  • Don’t say anything
  • You’ve said enough
  • Believe the lie

“My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.
What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
I never know what you are thinking. Think.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from The Wast Land: II. A Game of Chess

Yes, April is cruel indeed, but then, so are the other months and days of the year. In cruelty, I somehow always go back to Eliot, whose words seem to have been written by a ghost of me, so close to home are they.

I apologize if this post seems lost somewhere far beyond the pale, as it were. But my life, my lines, my words are in fragments alone. I cannot connect all of the varying lines and make a whole. I have neither the strength nor the wherewithal. Forgive the seeming self-pity; it is more of a muted self-examination, one conducted with exigence in the hopes of finding something “not loud nor long” to hold dear.

As old Tom said, “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”

“Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from The Wast Land: II. A Game of Chess

                    

For the complete text of “The Waste Land,” click here.

Leah in NC, are you out there?

                     

Music by William Fitzsimmons, “After Afterall”

“The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” ~ John Muir, from Letters

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Campfire on Benway Lake, Michigan by Deb Nystrom (FCC)

 

“It was autumn, and I was in my father’s
woods building a house out of branches
and the leaves that were falling like
thousands of letters from the sky.” ~ Joyce Sutphen, from “The Book of Hours”

Saturday evening. Cool, 60’s.

Did you know that the ceiling of New York’s Grand Central Terminal is painted with 2,500 stars: “an autumn-night constellation that was originally painted backward and never corrected”? I didn’t.

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Campfire by Rikerstribe (FCC)

When I pulled into the driveway this evening after doing some errands with Brett and Em, Brett opened his car door and immediately said, “It smells like autumn,” and indeed, it did. Brett and I share a deep love of the season, and we both await eagerly that first true scent on the air of damp leaves, woodsmoke, and loam—the unmistakable smell of autumn.

I could have sat outside for hours just to inhale, but alas, I was still hurting far too much as a result of massive trigger point injections on Friday. I suppose they’ve affected me so adversely because it has been too long since my last ones.

Oh well . . .

I’ll just imagine myself in the woods in front of a campfire.

Music by Woodkid, “I Love You” (quintet version)

                   

We Shall Be Released

Every afternoon that autumn
walking across campus
past the conservatory
I heard the soprano
practicing
her voice rising
making its way up the scale
straining to claim each note
weeks of work
of days
growing shorter
darker
storms slamming the campus
the semester staggering
to an end
everyone exhausted
drained
heading out and going home
the campus nearly deserted
but the soprano
still working the scales
when I passed under the trees
the liquidambars on fire
the clouds like great cities
sailing out to sea
and didn’t I ascend
with her
my own weariness
and sorrows
dropping away
didn’t we rise together
her voice straining
wavering
at the top of its range
almost reaching
almost claiming
that high
free-of-the-body
final note

~ Joseph Stroud

“I have only these words that seem as if | they climbed up from the bottom of a dry well.” ~ Richard Jackson, from “Silences”

Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum by David Ohmer
Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum by David Ohmer (FCC)

 


Two for Tuesday: Richard Jackson

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and lovely, 80 degrees.

Night Sky, Cornwall UK by Karen FCC
Night Sky, Cornwall, UK by Karen (FCC)

Last night around midnight I opened the back door to let the dogs go out, and I stared up into the sky. It was one of those awesome night skies, not because of the stars, but because of the clouds. Huge dollops of cumulous clouds dotted the sky, obscuring the stars, but appearing luminous all the same. Even though it was a new moon, the sky seemed alit with hidden light. I thought of Richard Jackson.

                   

Night Sky, Ukraine by Juanedc FCC
Night Sky, Ukraine by Juanedc (FCC)

Ten Things I Need to Know

The brightest stars are the first to explode. Also hearts. It is important to pay attention to love’s high voltage signs. The mockingbird is really ashamed of its own feeble song lost beneath all those he has to imitate. It’s true, the Carolina Wren caught in the bedroom yesterday died because he stepped on a glue trap and tore his wings off. Maybe we have both fallen through the soul’s thin ice already. Even Ethiopia is splitting off from Africa to become its own continent. Last year it moved 10 feet. This will take a million years. There’s always this nostalgia for the days when Time was so unreal it touched us only like the pale shadow of a hawk. Parmenedes transported himself above the beaten path of the stars to find the real that was beyond time. The words you left are still smoldering like the cigarette left in my ashtray as if it were a dying star. The thin thread of its smoke is caught on the ceiling. When love is threatened, the heart crackles with anger like kindling. It’s lucky we are not like hippos who fling dung at each other with their ridiculously tiny tails. Okay, that’s more than ten things I know. Let’s try twenty five, no, let’s not push it, twenty. How many times have we hurt each other not knowing? Destiny wears her clothes inside out. Each desire is a memory of the future. The past is a fake cloud we’ve pasted to a paper sky. That is why our dreams are the most real thing we possess. My logic here is made of your smells, your thighs, your kiss, your words. I collect stars but have no place to put them. You take my breath away only to give back a purer one. The way you dance creates a new constellation. Off the Thai coast they have discovered a new undersea world with sharks that walk on their fins. In Indonesia, a kangaroo that lives in a tree. Why is the shadow I cast always yours? Okay, let’s say I list 33 things, a solid symbolic number. It’s good to have a plan so we don’t lose ourselves, but then who has taken the ladder out of the hole I’ve dug for myself? How can I revive the things I’ve killed inside you? The real is a sunset over a shanty by the river. The keys that lock the door also open it. When we shut out each other, nothing seems real except the empty caves of our hearts, yet how arrogant to think our problems finally matter when thousands of children are bayoneted in the Congo this year. How incredible to think of those soldiers never having loved. Nothing ever ends. Will this? Byron never knew where his epic, Don Juan, would end and died in the middle of it. The good thing about being dead is that you don’t have to go through all that dying again. You just toast it. See, the real is what the imagination decants. You can be anywhere with the turn of a few words. Some say the feeling of out-of-the-body travel is due to certain short circuits in parts of the brain. That doesn’t matter because I’m still drifting towards you. Inside you are cumulous clouds I could float on all night. The difference is always between what we say we love and what we love. Tonight, for instance, I could drink from the bowl of your belly. It doesn’t matter if our feelings shift like sands beneath the river, there’s still the river. Maybe the real is the way your palms fit against my face, or the way you hold my life inside you until it is nothing at all, the way this plant droops, this flower called Heart’s Bursting Flower, with its beads of red hanging from their delicate threads any breeze might break, any word might shatter, any hurt might crush.

                   

Night Sky by David DeHetre FCC
Night Sky by David DeHetre (FCC)

Objects in this Mirror are Closer Than They Appear

Because the dawn empties its pockets of our nightmares.
Because the wings of birds are dusty with fear.
Because another war has eaten its way
into the granary of stars. What can console us?

Is there so little left to love? Is belief just the poacher’s
searchlight that always blinds us, and memory just
the tracer rounds of desire? Last night,
under the broken rudder of the moon, soldiers

cut a girl’s finger off for the ring, then shot her and the boy
who tried to hide under a cloak of woods beyond their Kosovo
town. Listen to me, —we have become words
without meanings, rituals learned from dried

river beds and the cellars of fire-bombed houses.
Excuses flutter their wings. Another mortar round is
arriving from the hills. How long would you say
it takes despair to file down a heart?

When, this morning, you woke beside me, you were mumbling
how yesterday our words seemed to brush over the marsh
grass the way those herons planed over
a morning of ground birds panicking in their nests.

When my father left me his GI compass, telling me
it was to keep me from losing myself, I never thought
where it had led him, or would lead me. Today,
beside you, I remembered simply the way you eat

a persimmon, and thought it would be impossible for each
drop of rain not to want to touch you. Maybe the names
of these simple objects, returning this morning
like falcons, will console us. Maybe we can love

not just within the darkness, but because of it. Ours is
the dream of the snail hoping to leave its track on the moon.
we are sending signals to worlds more distant
than what the radio astronomers can listen for, and yet—

And yet, what? Maybe your seeds of daylight will take root.
Maybe it is for you the sea lifts its shoulders to the moon,
for you the smoke of some battle takes the shape of a tree.
On your balconies of desire, in your alleyways of touch,

each object is a door opening like the luminous face of
a pocket watch. Maybe because of you the stars, too,
desire one another across their infinite,
impossible distances forever, so that it is not

unthinkable that some bird skims the narrow sky where
the sentry fires have dampened, where the soldier, stacking
guns in Death’s courtyard, might look up, and remember
touching some story he carries in his pockets, a morning

like this blazing through the keyholes of history, seeing not
his enemy but those lovers, reaching for each other, reaching
towards any of us, their words splintering on the sky,
the gloves of their hearts looking for anyone’s hands.

                   

Music by Aleah, “Water and Wine”